My fiancé and I had been renting in Housatonic for many years before deciding financially and stylistically that buying a home would be in our best interests. We hunted for quite some time before finding a home in Lanesborough that suited our needs. Pete and I knew nothing about Lanesborough before moving. We appreciated our new home because the neighborhood was quiet (like our rental), it was the last house on a dead-end (like our rental), it was #9 (like our rental), and it was easy to heat (unlike our rental). The house needed minimal work, the dogs immediately loved the yard and we loved the gardens, tool shed and potting shed. And hey, the septic was basically brand new. We were golden. It will be one year October 28 since we closed. One year of working, errands, bills, storms, power outages, shoveling, planting, raking, vacuuming, dishes, cat vomit, laundry, mopping, grilling, baking, arguing, laughing. The entire year has gone by and it wasn’t until last Sunday that the town of Lanesborough and me would collide.
I participated in a walk sponsored by Housatonic Heritage and Berkshire Natural Resources Council. It was free (one of my favorite words), just down the road from where I live, and a place I had never heard of. Constitution Hill. A couple of miles hike on a Sunday in the Fall? Hello, dream morning! So, I drove down Bridge Street, parked my car and joined the group that was congregating in the parking lot by the kiosk. Nice size group, 15 people or so. Mike Whalen the leader, who I would later find out, was an insane resource for everything Lanesboroughy. He is a wealth of knowledge. I mean seriously. He is a History teacher, Science teacher, Botany teacher, Gym teacher, Poetry teacher, Art teacher all rolled into one person. He was a fellow Lanesborough-ian and had captured most of the history of the town in one hike. I don’t want to give it all away, but Josh Billings, Jonathan Smith, the Nourse family, the Newton family, OB Joyful, the Reilly family, iron mills, Secum Brook, World War I, a red oak tree, a cleverly placed bonfire and sheep farming are all intimately related in the history of Lanesborough. The group followed a few marked trails, walking, stopping, chatting, laughing, and asking questions.
The hike was wonderful. And I mean what that word encompasses: wonder-filled. I learned how red maple leaves have three points and sugar maple leaves have five (something Mike typically teaches to kindergarteners – something I obviously missed growing up), how Christmas ferns look like stockings and hence get their name (another missed childhood fact), and the significance of the Red Oak tree on what used to be called Bald Headed Hill. I learned how Lanesborough in its heyday was the town to live in for its sheep farming (11 sheep to every 1 person or 12,333 sheep to 1,100 residents). I appreciated the calm of the woods and this history it told. The peace, reverence, and contemplation. I picked up acorns along the way (only the ones with hats) and was sad when the hike was done. I drove home with a renewed sense of why Lanesborough chose Pete and I. Ok, the house is easy to heat, but the house is also located a stone’s throw from the pulse of the town. History was written under our feet. There is a single Red Oak that means everything to this town. The sheep may all be gone, but the stories remain.
I recommend a Housatonic Heritage hike. You are getting more than exercise. There are stories out there that only the landscape can bring to life. To read about a place is not the same as visiting and walking the trails cut by horse-drawn wagons, like in the case of Constitution Hill. I will most certainly be going on more hikes and will be back to the Hill.
Most days you can find Michelle Murphy, BVB Communications Associate, on the road visiting Members. Her visits help to keep the BVB staff updated on what’s new and offer’s Members a chance to share images and information through our various social media channels. Site visits usually last about 30-45 minutes and it is a great opportunity to educate the BVB staff so that they can inspire visitors to come and see you as well! To schedule a visit from Michelle, please email at [email protected] or call 413.743.4500, ext. 133.